Defense loves Steele's intensity

CLEMSON — With the football settled inside the defense's 20-yard line, the Clemson offense elected to go for a fourth-and-one during a key moment of Saturday's scrimmage.

With a power backfield that included tight end Michael Palmer and fullback Chad Diehl, the offense went with the same play call that the week before went for a touchdown. The play was an option pitch to the left to Andre Ellington, who appeared for a half second was going to get the edge and pick up the first down and maybe a little more.

Palmer, who was to Ellington's left, did what he was supposed to do and freed up the edge by taking out the outside linebacker. That left Ellington with the outside free thanks to a wide receiver blocking safety DeAndre McDaniel.

As the redshirt freshman went to turn the corner, McDaniel shed his block and grabbed the freshman running back before throwing him down for no gain.

The play sent a huge celebration on the defensive sideline.

First free safety Sadat Champers jumped on top of McDaniel before a few more players joined in. Then, coming all the way down the field in a full sprint, new defensive coordinator Kevin Steele jumped on top of the pile to join in the fun.

"That's a little dangerous," Steele smiled afterwards.

But the new Clemson coach knows what a play like that can do for a defense, especially if it happens in a real game.

"We make a big thing about takeaways around here and a lot people think takeaways are interceptions and fumbles, but if you get off the field in a three-and-out, that is a takeaway," Steele said. "You did your job. You got them off the field.

"Anytime you stop them on four downs that is a huge takeaway. I mean a huge takeaway. Particularly when they are in position to kick because that is at least three points if you don't stop them."

The defense played off Steele's intensity throughout Saturday's scrimmage. The first team offense did not score a touchdown and the running game was basically non-existent all morning, while the front four constantly harassed quarterbacks Willy Korn, Kyle Parker and Michael Wade.

In all, the defense totaled 13 sacks and had several more tackles for a loss. They also forced two turnovers and caused a couple of more fumbles.


"We make a big thing about takeaways around here and lot people think takeaways are interceptions and fumbles, but if you get off the field in a three-and-out, that is a takeaway," Steele said.

"I feel that we came out here with a lot of enthusiasm and a lot of intensity today," said defensive end Da'Quan Bowers, who recorded three of those sacks and had four tackles for a loss. "I felt that we got a lot accomplished. The offense had a pretty good day and the defense came together more.

"We put in a couple of things that were kind of shaky but, I think overall it was a great day."

It was a great day for Steele because he saw his defense continue to improve under the new scheme.

"Last week, the [first] group gave up 2.4 yards rushing per attempt. The goal is 3.3 and we disrupted the passer. He was 5-of-14 last week I think for 43 yards," Steele said. "So last week, they made improvement from the first week and we made improvement today.

"They won two-minute [drills] and won it with a fourth down sack. They had two fourth down stops, which was huge. We tackled better and had better effort and for the most part we had some knock them back tackles and we had swarm tackles on the run so we were pretty good in those areas."

Middle linebacker Brandon Maye says things are just starting to come together and as long as they understand their reads and where they are supposed to be, they have a chance to be a pretty special unit.

"One of the biggest things for us is our focus," he said. "We came out here more focused today than we did last week. We basically just listened to what Coach Steele said about looking at our keys, reading our keys, and just make plays.

"Coach Steele knows we are going to make mistakes because this is a brand new defense. When we have a bad play, we just have to look behind that play and go on to the next one."

And if they make a play like McDaniel did on Saturday, then Steele will likely join them in the celebration.

"He is very intense. We love that," Bowers said.

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